On Thursday, September 29th, 2011, family and friends gathered at Seattle Mennonite Church to remember Mark Slye. The following words were read by Mark’s cousin Teresa, in memory of Mark’s life of joy and struggle.
“Mark Otis Sly was born February 17, 1966 in Seattle, Washington, the youngest child of Otis and Sharon Enola Slye, and he died August 23 of this year after a long illness. He is survived by his sister Cindy Slye, his Aunt Christine Stempak, his cousin Donald Bruce Hart and other relatives.
He was predeceased by his wife Mary Lou Slye and his parents Sharon Enola Slye and Otis Slye. Mark spent the majority of his life in Seattle and worked at The Home Depot on Aurora Avenue for many years.
Many people in this room know that Mark did not have the easiest life, and that he made some choices in his life that he regretted. Like all of us have.
It’s been years since I last saw my cousin Mark, I don’t even want to say how many. But the funny thing about family is that they’re stamped on you. It doesn’t matter how many years go by, you don’t forget. You remember who they were as children, you know who they are. I remember being a little girl and playing together with my cousins — Mark and his sister Cindy, and my cousin Donald. Our mothers – my mother, my Aunt Chris, my Aunt Betty and my Aunt Sharon — were young and beautiful sisters with their whole lives still ahead of them. And then something happened that affected many people in this room very profoundly; something that I’m not sure they’ve completely healed from – Mark and Cindy lost their mother, Sharon, far too young. And her sisters and brothers lost not only a sibling but a close and compassionate friend.
It’s impossible to say what affect this has on a child, in this case Cindy and Mark; it’s a devastating loss. And I think about that a lot when I think of Mark. I think that whatever his choices were, he was also so strong and courageous. He didn’t have what I had, a safety net. When he made a poor choice, I don’t know if he had someone there to help him fix it. And when he made a good choice, I don’t know if there was someone there to help him celebrate it. He was for a good deal of his life, mostly alone.
I love the picture of him in the program. It is exactly how I remember him, that smile. Mark had a sweet easy smile because he had a big generous heart. He came to live with me and my family for a brief time many years ago when I was in high school. And looking back I think how weird that must have been for him. We were living two very different lives and I was much too young to really grasp or understand that. I only remember thinking how cool it was to have a cousin in my house — I was an only child and always wanted an older brother. But I was completely oblivious to whatever he might have been going through – adjusting to a move, living with different relatives, a new town, strangers. I just wanted to show him off. I wanted him to come bowling with my friends. And he did. And, again, this was at a difficult time for him, I know that now, but he went along with whatever silly thing I was doing – I was naïve. I knew nothing close to what Mark knew about the world and life. But he tolerated my naiveté and was generous and gracious, and always with that sweet smile.
I know Mark’s life was a struggle sometimes, maybe much of the time. I hope, though, that he had some moments of wild joy in his life. I hope he enjoyed companionship and love from his wife. I hope he remembered that he was part of a family and a community, he was someone. And finally, I hope now he is at peace, and I hope we remember his life and take nothing for granted in our own.
In Mark’s final days, he was grateful for the love and care of those who looked after him, especially Gary Brewer who is very involved with Seattle Mennonite Church (Community Ministry) and God’s Little Acre Sanctuary in Lake City. He was also grateful to the Pastor of Seattle Mennonite Church Jonathan Neufeld. He was thankful for the love and care he received from his Aunt Christine Stempak and his cousin and closest lifelong friend Donald Bruce Hart.
He was also thankful for the love, care and compassion he received from Health and Rehabilitation of North Seattle. They are committed to taking the best of care of their patients. Mark’s family is grateful for the staff at Providence Hospice of Seattle (his caseworker-Danielle Dibba and the Chaplain-Kerry Halligan), and all of us are grateful for all the other staff, and his friends here, who did everything they could to make Mark’s last days comfortable.”